Frequently Asked Questions

PTA Garage Services answer your most frequently asked questions about car maintenance.

Vehicle Maintenance

There are a number of signs that can tell you if your car brakes are not performing as effectively as they should be. If you have noticed any of the following, it is essential that you have your brakes checked over by a specialist as your brakes are ultimately your vehicle’s safety system.

Signs to look out for include:

  • Squealing or grinding noises.
  • Vehicle pulls to one side or judders when braking.
  • The brake pedal feels spongy, hard or pulsates when pushed.
  • Brake fluid on the outside of the wheels.

If your brakes seem less effective or you have noticed any of the signs listed above, visit your local PTA Garage Services branch for a free brake check.

Find out more about your car brakes and what these signs could indicate here.

The exhaust system is made up of several different components which work together to reduce toxic fumes, direct these fumes away from the vehicle, reduce noise and improve fuel consumption.

If any exhaust components fail, then the whole system may be unable to carry out its function.

Fortunately, it is usually easy to identify and problems you may encounter as the exhaust will tend to display the following signs:

  • Unusual noises which may include a loud roaring, rumbling, hissing, metallic rattling or chugging.
  • Noticeable increase in fuel consumption.
  • Emissions which may include white vapour that is created after the vehicle has warmed up or black, grey or blue smoke.
  • Corrosion that you can see on the visible parts of the exhaust.

If you have noticed any of the signs listed, or simply require reassurance, make an appointment at your local PTA Garage Services branch for a free exhaust and emissions check.

Find out more about how your car exhaust works here.

Windscreen wipers are often overlooked but they are an invaluable vehicle component, able to provide the driver with a clear view of the road in all weather conditions.

They are fragile pieces of equipment, usually manufactured in rubber to clean the windscreen without damaging it, which means that they are susceptible to wear and tear.

There is no set time frame for which windscreen wipers can last, as wear is dependent upon usage, but if you notice these signs, you must have them replaced as soon as possible:

  • Squeaking or squealing noises
  • Cracks or split rubber on the blades
  • Failing to remove all water, snow or mud from the windscreen
  • Missing parts of the windscreen when cleaning
  • Leaving streaks of water where the wiper has not made contact with the windscreen

Make an appointment to have your windscreen wipers replaced at PTA Garage Services.

As a vehicle owner it is your responsibility to ensure that it is in good condition and this includes keeping an eye on engine fluids and topping them up if necessary.

Engine Oil

What it does – Engine oil keeps all the mechanical components of your engine lubricated and working effectively.

How often to check it – This depends on the car manufacturer so you should check your vehicle handbook.

How to check and replace it – If you need to check it yourself, find the engine oil container and dipstick under the bonnet, and use the dipstick to measure how full it is. If the level sits underneath the clearly labelled minimum limit, you must fill it up using the engine oil recommended in your vehicle handbook.

Engine Coolant

What it does – Engine coolant controls the temperature of your vehicle and helps to prevent it from overheating, which can cause breakdowns and other damage.

How often to check it – Check your engine coolant in accordance with your vehicle handbook and before heading on long journeys. For peace of mind, you may also wish to check your engine coolant before driving on hot days.

How to check and replace it – The engine coolant will be in a transparent container under the bonnet so you can easily see how full it is and make sure it is over the minimum line. If you need to replenish your engine coolant, check your vehicle handbook to ensure that you use the correct solution.

You must never check or attempt to replace your engine coolant whilst the container is hot!

Brake Fluid

What it does – Brake fluid helps with the transmission of braking force and is an essential part of the braking system.

How often to check it – It is recommended that you have your brake fluid checked at least every two years, although this can vary between manufacturers so check your handbook for details. You should also check your brake fluid level if you are having any problems with your car brakes.

How to check and replace it – Much like your engine coolant, you can visually check the level of your brake fluid by looking at the transparent container it is in and ensuring it is sufficiently full. Brake fluid should not need topping up, so if it is low you must have it checked over by a specialist.

A full or interim car service at PTA Garage Service includes a renewal of engine oil, engine coolant and brake fluid, so you may wish to bear this in mind when calculating how frequently you should check your engine fluid levels.

Batteries have an average lifespan of 3 to 4 years so it is important that you get yours checked when it is reaching this milestone.

Other signs that you should look out for include:

  • Rapid clicking when you turn the ignition key
  • Slow turn over after ignition
  • Car lights appear to be dimmer
  • Battery warning light appears on your dashboard

Visit your local PTA Garage Services for a free battery health check if your car battery is nearing 3-4 years or you have noticed any of the signs listed above.

Find out more about your car battery and learn some tips to help prolong the life of your car battery here.

Summer Driving

If you switched to winter tyres when the temperatures dropped, don’t forget to change back when the summer begins! Summer tyres are optimised for high temperatures and wet weather and so will be safer than winter tyres during warm weather. You should change back to summer tyres when temperatures reach a consistent average of 7°c, which is usually between April and October in the UK.

As a motorist it is your duty to ensure that the tyres on your vehicle are in good condition and meet legal standards. You should check your tyres at least every four weeks and before setting off on any long journeys to ensure that they are safe. Here is what you should be checking:

  • Tread depth – your gripping abilities, braking distances and aquaplaning resistance will all be affected if you have inadequate levels of tyre tread.
  • Tyre pressure – tyres driven with incorrect pressures can be dangerous as this can affect your handling properties and make your tyres more susceptible to wear.
  • Tyre condition – if your tyres are damaged you could risk tyre failure every time you drive. Be sure to keep an eye on the condition of your tyres.

During summer, many of us rely on our air conditioning to keep us cool during long journeys. To ensure that your air conditioning is performing to its full potential and won’t let you down when you need it most, you should have it recharged every three to four years.

Air conditioning systems need to be recharged because over time, the refrigerant used in the system evaporates and this results in a drop in cooling efficiency. Find out more about the air conditioning services we offer.

Wet conditions can be potentially hazardous for drivers, so it is important that you are prepared to face them. Checking your tyre tread at least once a month will help to provide you with adequate aquaplaning resistance and inspecting your windscreen wipers for any damage will help to keep you safe when rain strikes.

When it is raining, or has been raining, you should drive at a slower speed than usual and maintain a long distance from the car in front. This is because when the surface of the road is wet, braking distances are increased and slower speeds will help your tyres to maintain traction, keeping you out of difficulty if the car in front brakes unexpectedly.

If the road is flooded, you must seriously assess if it is safe to proceed before driving on. If the water is deeper than six inches you should avoid it as it could cause irreparable damage to your engine. When driving through standing water, first ensure that you have a clear route as stopping could be hazardous and then drive through on the highest part of the road slowly in first gear.

Before you set off on any long journeys this summer, you should make a few checks to your vehicle to ensure that you stay safe and comfortable on the road.

You should check the condition of your tyres as well as ensuring that your tyre pressures have been adjusted accordingly to cope with the load of your vehicle.

Ensure that all engine fluids meet their sufficient requirements and if not, top them up as necessary.

It is important that your vision is not impaired whilst driving, so check that your windscreen wipers are in good working condition and do not exhibit signs of damage such as cracks or splits. Also, clean your windscreen to ensure smears are limited when using your wipers.

It is a good idea to carry certain items with you when you are driving long distances in summer. You should think about carrying bottled water, which you can use to refill your engine coolant in emergencies, an in-car phone charger and a torch.

You must not store tyres in the open air under any circumstances. Instead, locate a well ventilated room away from any heat or water pipes. The tyres must be protected from direct sunlight, and some car manufacturers will provide appropriate tyre bags to store your tyres in.

You should store your tyres appropriately. If they have rims you should hang or pile them and aim to restack them at least every four weeks. If your tyres do not have rims, you should stand them upright and rotate them every four weeks.

If you do not have a suitable space to store tyres, many garages offer a tyre hotel option.

When it comes to switching your tyres, ensure that you have them fitted by a tyre specialist as they will be able to assess the condition of your tyres and ensure that they are still of a high standard.

Tyres with rims and tyres without rims need to be stored differently

Winter Driving

The short answer is yes, winter tyres are necessary in the UK. This is because, contrary to popular belief, winter tyres offer a superior performance to summer tyres in cold, wet conditions not only in snow and ice. Summer tyres become stiff when temperatures drop below 7ºC and your gripping and braking capabilities weaken. Winter tyres are also designed to drastically decrease the risk of aquaplaning in cold weather, therefore, providing optimum safety on those few days of snow and ice we may experience.

Don’t leave it until the first frost to switch to your winter tyres! In the UK, it is recommended that you fit your winter tyres as soon as temperatures drop below 7ºC. This usually means between October and April, according to temperatures and weather conditions.

There are several steps you can take to help safeguard your car against damaging winter conditions:

  • Batteries are the biggest cause of problems in winter, so make sure that you have yours checked by a specialist to make sure it will be able to keep you going all winter.
  • Mix anti-freeze in your engine coolant to safe guard against your engine freezing. Most modern cars already use long-life antifreeze, so it is important to check your vehicle handbook to avoid mixing different types.
  • Have your brakes checked. Don’t wait until there is ice on the roads to find out if your brakes are performing to their maximum potential.
  • Switch to your winter tyres or, if you choose not to use winter tyres, check that the tyres you are using have sufficient enough tread depth to provide good grip in tough conditions.

Your driving habits and style should change in accordance with the weather. Give yourself an extra ten minutes to prepare your car in winter and scrape ice off the windows and de-mist your car before setting off to ensure your visibility is clear.

Remember that your stopping distances will be ten times longer in cold conditions and be aware of everything around you. Try to maintain a slow but constant speed when driving up and down hill and always maintain a large gap to the car in front.

It is a good idea to carry emergency items for winter journeys. Prepare yourself for the unexpected situations which may arise in cold conditions by carrying an ice scraper, jump cables and a torch in your car. It may be wise to have a blanket, warm clothing and water on hand as well.